And So it Begins

December 7, 2008


For the last three years—2005, 2006 and 2007—December has meant one thing to me.  Law School Finals.  Not decking the halls.  No holly jolly.  Not a trace of yuletide cheer.  And absolutely no cookie baking.   Nope, just flashcards, anxiety, and exhaustion. So, when December crept up this year, I decided to make up for lost time, especially in the cookie department.


I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, surrounded by a cloud of sugar and flour, apron  cinched around my waist, spatula firmly in my palm.  I’ve also been making room in the freezer (no easy task) as the batches mount.  But, perhaps best of all, I’ve been poring over recipes.


So, I was delighted to (finally) get my December issue of Gourmet last week and see that the cover was splashed with shimmering sandwich cookies in an array of cotton candy-ish colors.  I greedily flipped to Ruth Reichl’s editor’s column: one of my favorite parts of every issue.  There, I was even more delighted to learn that my cover was one of eight different covers arriving in subscribers’ mailboxes this month.  She called it a “virtual cookie pass,” and, well, I just loved the idea.


I also read in Reichl’s column that was featuring a slide show of the editors’ favorite cookie from each year the magazine has been in print.  Still basking in the whole notion of the “virtual cookie pass” (I told you I’m making up for lost time; I have some holiday spirit to spare this year, it seems), I clicked through the slide show, my mental list of Cookies I Must Make This December growing at an alarming rate.  But one  cookie in particular caught my eye.


It was this cranberry-pistachio cookie, a bite-sized square featuring seasonal shades and resplendent in a sparkly cloak of sanding sugar.  Even though I already have a pistachio and dried cherry cookie recipe in my back pocket, I couldn’t resist.


And I’m thanking my lucky mistletoe that I didn’t resist.  Not only were these cookies both easy (much easier than the biscotti and all that twice-baking business) and flexible (allowing me, like any good icebox cookie would, to make the dough on Saturday and slice-and-bake the cookies on Sunday), but they were also delicious.  They’re a classic, rich, buttery cookie, but they’re made interesting with bits of dried cherries (which I prefer to dried cranberries, but either would work), nuggets of pistachio and a background hint of orange.  And the sanding sugar’s not just for looks, either; it lends the cookies a sweet crunch.  Much, much tastier than, say, a civil procedure exam.

Pistachio-Cranberry Icebox Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
1/2 cup shelled pistachios (2 1/4 oz; not dyed red)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (1 1/4 oz) [I used dried cherries]
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup decorative sugar (preferably coarse) [I used Sugar in the Raw]

Make dough:
Stir together flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries. Gather and press dough together, then divide into 2 equal pieces. Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Square off long sides of each log to form a bar, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 2 hours.

Slice and bake cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bars (but not ends). Sprinkle decorative sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper and press bars into sugar, coating well.

Cut each bar crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rotating bar after cutting each slice to help keep square shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm.) Arrange cookies about 1/2 inch apart on lined baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies from parchment to racks using a slotted spatula and cool completely.

19 Responses to “And So it Begins”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Can you feel my jealousy?! I am currently drowning in papers and reports, it’s insane. Every now and then I think of a day when I won’t be concerned with finals and thankfully, I only have one week left 🙂 Once it’s over, I am sure to get my cookie-baking on!!

  2. Amanda: Yes, I can feel it. Call it a virtual anxiety pass. : ) But you’re almost there! Hang in there and good luck! And, in the meantime, at least you have snickerdoodles …

  3. maggie Says:

    These look so great! Lovely photographs. Almost feel like I could grab a cookie off my screen…

  4. Ok so I am going to write out the elements for why this post is both funny/ironic/sad at the same time:
    1) these are totally on my to do list for Saturday after my two finals on Thursday and Friday (after finishing my 2nd take home this morning…yes I have the worst finals schedule of all time ) and you beat me to it!
    2) I am so jealous that you get to actually enjoy Dec!

    Where did you find unshelled pistachios? I couldn’t find them yesterday at Dominicks.

    PS…your cookies look amazing…I can’t wait to make them.

  5. Peter Says:

    If I wasn’t on a diet I would try these out. Just the pix make my mouth water…

  6. sue bette Says:

    wow at first glance the cookies almost look like a terrine – I love the combo of the cherries & pistachio. Great pics!

  7. Lauren Says:

    I’m actually on my way to take my evidence exam… with visions of these cookies dancing in my head!

  8. radish Says:

    oooh excellent, cookies. I admit I drooled over my Gourmet issue as well – this Jewish household is making Christmas cookies galore 🙂 and no one can stop me.

  9. Amy Says:

    These are so beautiful. I had the same reaction when I opened up my Gourmet and read about the different covers — I got the one with the nice earth tones and Moravian spice cookies laid out like flowers!

  10. I got the same cover…its almost hard to see the cookies!

  11. Aggie Says:

    I loved the cover of Gourmet this month! And I really love these cookies!

  12. culinarycory Says:

    What a great cookie idea for entertaining. Just prepare it in advance and bake it just before your guests arrive.

  13. Angela Says:

    I just found that wonderful slideshow on just five minutes before stumbling on your site — and the SAME exact cookie stood out for me. This pistachio-cherry cookie looks so festive and seems like the perfect Christmas cookie. Thanks for the post — I will definitely make these now!

  14. Lynna Says:

    These look delicious and so festive. I will have to try them over the holidays.

  15. Marie from Proud Italian Cook just made these too. They are so pretty, I guess you inticed me to try the recipe!
    Stacey Snacks

  16. maggie: Thanks!

    whitney: Hang in there!

    Peter: A diet during the holidays! Impressive!

    sue bette: They do look slices of a terrine!

    Lauren: Hope it went well!

    radish: To the tune of Bing Crosby, perhaps?

    Amy: Ooh, that one was pretty!

    Aggie: Me too!

    culinarycory: You’re absolutely right. And it’s good to be armed with drop-in ready treats around the holidays, I think.

    Angela: I hope you do!

    Lynna: Thank you! Let us know how they turn out.

    Stacey Snacks: I’ve been seeing a lot of pistachio-dried cherry/cranberry creations out there. Must be the colors …

  17. These are beautiful too! I totally understand what you mean about making up for lost holiday years…i was finishing my master’s in architecture the last two years so Christmas came and went in 2006 + 2007 without even one cookie being baked! This year, I’ve been a baking machine!!! 🙂

  18. So I just tried making these today and when I sliced them, they basically just crumbled 😦 I got about half of each log to be ok. I am baking the crumbs right now.

    Did you have any problems with the dough at all?

  19. Andrea: We are definitely in the same boat! Happy baking …

    whitney: I’m so sorry to hear that! As you can see in my photos, the dough sliced really easily for me. Did you chill it well? The only thing I had trouble with was getting them off the cookie sheet which I neglected to line, despite the recipe’s instruction to do so. Most of them came off the sheet, but there were a few that didn’t make it. I hope the crumbs at least taste good. : (

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